Mardi Gras parade is back!
By Dawne Belloise
Get yer Krewe together because KBUT will once again host Mardi Gras and certainly Laissez les bon temps rouler on Fat Tuesday, February 13, when the too-long-absent Elk Avenue parade and after party rolls at the Mallardi Theater. Entering your krewe or float is free and this year there is a $500 prize for best float, compliments of Andrew Hadley Architect. The last day to register is Monday, February 12, and true to the peculiar Buttian time and space fabric, people will sign up last minute; however, Jackson Petito of KBUT says there are already many signed up. Krewe and floats will meet at the Historic Depot (east Elk Avenue) at 4 p.m. for the 5 p.m. start.
The last time KBUT had a presence in the parade with Marty the Dragon, according to Petito, was in 2016, when they ran the dragon up Elk. “That was the last of the biggish parades,” he recalls and further describes the following 2017 year’s parade as abbreviated, not widely attended and not having a lot of floats.
Leave it to Lunch Lady Laura, aka Laura Sylva, to get the party started. “She’s been on the KBUT board since last January and really lit the fire under us since no one else was doing the parade,” Petito says of the impetus and tradition. This year, Mardi Gras coincides with the KBUT winter pledge drive. “We thought it would be a good opportunity to get our face out in the public and do something fun for everybody. I think the $500 prize will drive a lot of participation. Even if no one shows up, we have a 50-foot dragon,” Petito laughs and emphasizes, “but a lot of people have already signed up.”
Andrew Hadley has a somewhat clear memory of how the first Crested Butte Mardi Gras came to be and he recalls, “It was started by the Mountain Theatre with Scott Meyers, Suzanne Hadley and me in 1999. Peggy Preston was living on the southwest end of town, I was living on the northeast side,” and they were both having a Mardi Gras party but on opposite sides of town. The early party was at Hadley’s and the intention was to walk up to Peggy’s place. “But we got too much of a buzz on so we all grabbed instruments and walked up Elk Avenue in an impromptu parade in the middle of a February snow dump with about 35 people playing trumpets, drums, guitars and pots and pans,” and back then, he recalls, “There was nobody on the streets on Tuesday nights in February.” And that’s where it all began. People started thinking this could be a good thing every year. That first parade in 2000 was pretty big and was built up even more over the years. “Nobody had any idea if anyone was going to show up, but they did,” Hadley says. “There were a ton of floats, CBMR came and a lot of people from Louisiana came out to watch in subsequent years,” he tells, as the celebration gained momentum and popularity.
By the second year, Marty the Dragon was born, built by Andrew Hadley with the help of many people, and Kate Seeley added a dose of her magical whimsy. Then there was the notorious, once mayor, Alan Bernholtz, who wowed the crowd by jumping through flames on his mobile ski jump pulled up Elk Avenue. In the past, there were even live bands that marched.
There were also gumbo cook-offs and this year, Hadley will be stirring the large pot of traditional Cajun gumbo to be served at the after party at the Mountain Theatre’s Mallardi Cabaret. Also being served up is live music, DJs and KBUT will broadcasting live from the party. For more information, head to KBUT.org.